Ruggedly functional ladder-chassis body-on-frame 4×4 wagons are making a comeback and the Isuzu MU-X proves that tough doesn’t need to be rough.
While it might appear that ladder-chassis body-on-frame SUVs are making a comeback, the functional yet well equipped Isuzu MU-X seven seat wagon has been available to the New Zealand market for just over four years.
It arrived at the National Fieldays in 2014 at the price of $65,990 which has remained unchanged although since that time the high-spec MU-X with leather upholstery has been subject to numerous rolling changes and cosmetic enhancements inside and out to keep it market fresh.
Last year the latest iteration of the Multi-Utility Xtreme (hence MU-X) arrived mid year in the form of the RF20 series which mirrored the updates to the RT87 series D-Max ute family.
It was a fairly significant product update incorporating redesigned headlamps, radiator grille, front bumper and fog lamps.
In addition new tail lamps and a redesigned rear bumper differentiate the RF20 series MU-X from previous earlier generation cars, and it also gained daytime running lights as well as better pedestrian impact protection according to the manufacturer.
Isuzu Ute has put more soundproofing and noise suppression into the interior of the RF20 series MU-X as well as a new dashboard, new steering wheel, new chrome and high-gloss black trim, and a new instrument cluster.
There is also a new style of leather upholstery for all seven seats with more detailed stitching for aesthetics as well as more padding than before for better occupant comfort.
Standard features include a rearview camera, GPS satellite navigation, tri-zone climate air conditioning, LED projector headlamps with auto levelling, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
In addition there is also bluetooth telephony, powered adjustment for the driver’s seat, privacy glass, CD/DVD entertainment system with drop-down 10-inch screen for rear passengers, power exterior mirrors, aluminium side steps, and matte silver roof rails.
Folding the rear two rows of passenger seats down turns the MU-X from a soccer mom wagon into a massive load lugger. While the MU-X shares the majority of its body panels with the Holden Trailblazer, the Isuzu is differentiated by a unique design at the front and the rear of the vehicle.
We found the cabin of the Isuzu was a lot quieter than the Holden particularly at open road speeds, the MU-X engine may not have the same outright grunt as the VM Motori-sourced unit under the bonnet of the Holden but it feels a lot less noisy on acceleration.
My four-wheel-driving in the MU-X was restricted to driving across the rocks and sand of Faulkner Bay for the photos seen here, but this wagon has some serious off-road capability.
You can shift on the fly from two-wheel-drive to high ratio four-wheel-drive at speed up to 100km/h, but engaging low ratio four-wheel-drive requires the vehicle to be stationary and the gearbox in neutral position for the system to engage.
Activating low range automatically disengages the traction control system for obvious reasons, sometimes a little slippage is necessary.
The MU-X offers approach and departure angles of 30.1 and 25.1 degrees respectively, and with its better than average axle articulation, it will confidently tackle most off-road situations much like its ute sibling the D-Max.
It has a different suspension tune than the Holden Trailblazer, and is much better off for it, with a softer and more compliant ride both on-road and off-road.
But it’s higher-centre of gravity and longer travel suspension means this isn’t a vehicle suited to more dynamic on-road driving, so a more genteel line and slower speed is required for cornering on winding rural roads.
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but the MU-X fits the market for buyers wanting an old-school towing wagon that’s capable of hauling 3-tonne (braked) trailers but also provides a dual purpose vehicle with seven seats for both work and leisure.
|Engine||999cc, 4-Cylinder, 130kW/430Nm||Drivetrain||6-speed auto|
|Fuel Use||8.3L/100km||C02 Output||N.A. g/km|
|0-100km/h||N.A. sec||Weight||2110kg kerb weight|
|Service||10,000km intervals, 3 year / 100,000km warranty||Load||5.2m3 volume, 2537m length, 1387m height|
|Vitals||2750kg GVM, kg payload||Vitals||3000kg towing capacity|